The GFSI food safety standards have become so prevalent in the food and beverage industry that many major food chain stakeholders will only maintain a relationship with suppliers who are GFSI compliant. The standards serve as a “quality stamp” for these stakeholders. They are often the sign of a supplier who has made it a priority to incorporate quality initiatives into its processes, ensuring a product that is of the highest caliber of safety and quality.
Explore this issueFebruary/March 2012
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The evolution of technology has also greatly changed the face of the food and beverage industry. Automation has made processes more streamlined, decreasing human error and increasing environmentally friendly business practices as the need for paper lessens. Technology has also led to an increase in integration. Processes are no longer siloed, essentially cut off from all other processes.
Technology can streamline compliance with GFSI; integration is the key to maintaining quality and achieving harmonization across the scope of an organization.
Today, when it comes to food safety systems, point solutions are often used. These types of systems were typically put into place separately over time and implemented whenever the need arose, a strategy that resulted in a variety of systems, such as corrective and preventive action (CAPA), document control, and employee training, each put in place within one organization yet running independently of each other. These separate systems raised a number of challenges that an integrated system could solve. For example, siloed compliance initiatives leave the organization with limited communication and visibility, because the systems are not linked. An integrated system lets the user consolidate multiple requirements into one source, providing enhanced visibility and improved communication and eliminating the worry of duplicate data.
Reporting overlap is another challenge alleviated by an integrated system. Siloed systems may overlap in their reporting of critical safety data, because so many similar issues are being reported in each system. An integrated system consolidates the data into one report, which makes it easier to review and trend on data.
Finally, a multitude of systems often results in the need for employees to train on more than one system to complete their tasks. An integrated system saves time and enhances productivity tenfold, because employees are using and training on only one system.
Ultimately, it helps to think in terms of integrating processes. Let’s see why this approach to integration can be beneficial to the organization.
Applying a process-based approach when integrating systems is useful because the end user has a say in which processes are consolidated. For example, the processes that are used most often and make the most sense to integrate are those that will be consolidated. System users are the focus, and the goal is to use fewer systems to get the job done.
Taking a process-based approach results in a centralized, harmonized process in which all tasks can be completed in one system. In a siloed system, employees would have to use different systems for tasks that could be combined into just one holistic management system. An integrated system allows them to do everything in one location, eliminating the need to jump from system to system. Let’s take the example of CAPA. Using an integrated system, a CAPA could be launched for the employee.
Additionally, all HACCP, supply chain, and risk process tasks will be a part of one total system, able to communicate with each other. The system is thus enhanced exponentially, because the processes can communicate, sharing relevant data and avoiding the need to duplicate work in both systems when these tasks can be completed in just one.
Other benefits an organization will realize by integrating management systems include:
- Trending: An organization will have better visibility into how one event can affect other areas of the enterprise. This allows trending across the enterprise and can enable a holistic report to identify points that require change throughout the organization.
- Ease of compliance with multiple standards: Compliance with multiple standards becomes easier because various requirements are consolidated into a single source, enhancing visibility.
- Scalability: A challenge faced with point solutions is that each facility has its own set of solutions. The difficulty lies in making these various point solutions interact with each other. An integrated, holistic system allows for a common standardized solution that is scalable and effective across the enterprise, regardless of whether the event stems from safety, quality, inspection, environment, or any other discipline. In a point solution, the user would have had to jump from system to system depending on the discipline the event derived from.
Organizations may suffer from “data paralysis”—so much information is coming in, the company doesn’t know where to begin. How does an organization begin to sort through the data and adverse events to find those most critical to the business? The company needs to prioritize and filter these events using a systematic and quantitative method.